About The Birgittines
Who are we? What do we do? We are eight catholic nuns, (monialae) from five different countries, living in Vadstena in St. Birgitta’s Abbey.
St. Birgitta founded our Order right here in Vadstena in the 14th century. Our Order has the Latin abbreviation O.Ss.S.. Many of those who come to our abbey today are fascinated by the antiquity of it all. We don’t see it like that. We certainly do have our roots in medieval history, and an ideal, which is even older, but we live in the middle of a modern township, otherwise we shouldn’t be on internet!
The Order of the Day still has the ancient monastic rhythm of prayer and work, prayer and work. The fact that ‘prayer’ comes first means that we give it priority and it is expressed in our common prayer or Office at certain times each day. It is just therefore that our abbey is called a contemplative abbey. In order to live like this, we have chosen to have ‘enclosure’ which means that we do not work outside the actual area which we own and where we live.
What do nuns do anyway? We have chosen to do simple, manual work because then we can work in silence and have our hearts and minds free for continued prayer while we work. Our way of life does not exclude intellectual work, but that is not our main interest.
Why choose such a life? We live in a convent because we are fascinated by Jesus Christ, consumed by love for him and a desire to live just for him. That we chose monastic life is because it gives us greater possibility for prayer, either alone or together, more time than we could have under other conditions. This does not mean that we do not appreciate other ways of life! They are fine! It is just that our vocation is different. There are other people who work, for instance, in the missions, or as doctors, teachers, or in the slums… serving people direct, because of their own personal vocation. But we can’t all do that. We have chosen the service called prayer.
What is this ‘service of prayer?’ What does it mean? It means first and foremost the praise of God. It means giving that thanks which all creation wants to give God who has loved us so much. It means prayer for those in active service, it is our way of backing them up. It can also mean prayer for many, many others who ask us to pray for them when they are in some sort of crisis. It means prayer for all those who never pray at all, for those who have forgotten that God has given them their life. Our entire life in all its aspects is prayer.
Aren’t we rather aloof? Some people think so. They think that we are exclusive and that our life here is without meaning. And if you take God away from this equation, it would certainly be so. But because we live a life grounded on the conviction that God is the Living God, a Person whom one can stand in relation to, then our lives have a profound meaning.
Do you live an entirely light-hearted life? That we feel that our way of life is just right for us doesn’t mean that we are free from ‘good’ or ‘bad’ days. We are human beings with many faults and failings. If we have a bad cold and feel that our head is full of cottonwool, then it is difficult to feel that office has any meaning. But our belief is a conviction that does not have its origin in emotions but lies much deeper, in our will. This conviction and desire carries us through the grey days. And then we can see that God was there all the time.
The Order of the Day
Our agenda changes rhythmically from prayer to work with time in between for spiritual reading, meals, rest and recreation and so on.
06.15 Private meditation
07.15 Lauds and tierce, that is choir prayer.
08.00 Breakfast in silence, followed by work of various kinds in the guesthouse or the Abbey
11.15 None, noon prayer in choir.
11.45 Dinner, in silence while we listen to a book being read.
The meal is followed by an hour for privat recreation, a nap, a walk, reading and so on.
Afterwards work again. This is time for lessons for the sisters in training.
15.15 Recreation with talk and handwork,
when everyone talks at once, unfortunately.
15.55 Chapter of the day.
16.00 Spiritual reading.
16.25 Vespers in choir.
17.15 Holy Mass.
18.30 Supper with more reading to listen to and then free time.
19:30 Compline in choir, then matutines, bedtime and great silence.
There is a permanent inner development, leading to more maturity and also wisdom when one lives the monastic life. That is why we value or older sisters so highly. As they grow older and weaker, their spiritual life grows and the young have much to learn from them.(Text: Sr M Birgitta O.Ss.S.)
Explanation of the strange words
Monial: from the Greek ‘monachos’ one who lives alone.
Abbey: a monastery governed by an abbot or an abbess (in our case, an abbess).
O.Ss.S.:= Ordo Sanctissimi Salvatoris, that is The most holy Saviour’s Order.
Office: the prayer, which regulates our lives, prayer with song mainly from David’s Psalter.
Contemplative: means an order and a convent or abbey where nuns/monks remain all their lives inside the area.
Enclosure: private area.